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Today Is The International Day For The Elimination Of Racial Discrimination
March 21, 2014
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Nelson Mandela was a supporter of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and today marks the first such day since his death. (Photo: TREVOR SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The United Nations has recognized March 21 as a day of observance against racism and racial discrimination since 1966. It's an auspicious date, as it commemorates the anniversary of police firing on anti-apartheid protesters in the South African township of Sharpeville in 1960. The Sharpeville massacre is considered a turning point in focusing international attention on racial injustice in South Africa and a catalyst for the movements that would dismantle the ruling National Party’s apartheid regime.

The day’s roots are particularly significant this year, as it's the first time the day will be observed since since the death of former South African president Nelson Mandela. Mandela fought against racial discrimination his entire life, and was a high-profile champion of this UN-sanctioned day. The UN’s theme for 2014, “The Role of Leaders in Combatting Racism and Racial Discrimination,” reflects the lasting impact Mandela would have on bridging racial tensions in South Africa and across the world.

In a statement, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said:

"I call on all people, especially political, civic and religious leaders, to strongly condemn messages and ideas based on racism, racial superiority or hatred as well as those that incite racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. On this Day, let us acknowledge that racial discrimination remains a dangerous threat and resolve to tackle it through dialogue inspired by the proven ability of individuals to respect, protect and defend our rich diversity as one human family."

It's important to note that the International Day For The Elimination Of Racial Discrimination is a truly global campaign — and that means there are many events taking place here in Canada. Here’s how several groups across the country are marking the occasion:

The Multicultural Council of Saskatchewan is introducing a new, eye-catching poster campaign.

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation has announced a new resource focusing on “Imported Conflict.”

Winners of the annual Carl Anthony Crawford Award are being honoured in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The award recognizes individual commitments to justice and equality.

The Canadian Multicultural Education Foundation’s annual Harmony Brunch will be held on Sunday, March 23 in Edmonton.

The Canadian Coalition of Municipalities against Racism and Discrimination welcomes Belleville, Ontario as its 59th municipal partner.

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